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Sasha Glukhov as a symbol of an unfinished war

27.03.2009  |  15:51

1/5/5/2155.jpegThe story of young Sergeant Glukhov seems more and more like a TV drama. News agencies are writing about him again and again, and programmes are even being made about him. It's something like "Santa Barbara" which once caused a sensation as it blazed a trail for low-grade soap operas onto our screens. Only the hero of the current "serial" is a village lad from Udmurtia and it has not yet been decided what he should be called: in Georgia he is a hero, but the Russians regard him as a deserter.

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Aleksandr Glukhov never suspected that his name would one day be added to Wikipedia. There he is referred to as a young Russian army sergeant, who has requested political asylum in Georgia. But the founders of Wikipedia have designed the website in such a way that any user can amend existing articles and add their own. So it is quite likely that tomorrow the internet encyclopedia will present Glukhov as a deserter.

"The criminal case is currently being investigated by the military branch of the Investigative Committee. Investigative actions are being carried out - not in a great volume, but a decision will subsequently be made on the case," ITAR-TASS quotes the deputy chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian prosecutor's office, Boris Salamaksov.

On the whole, the conclusions of the Investigative Committee are no longer important. Because Glukhov has long since become a pawn in the PR-war which has developed between Georgia and Russia since the August events. There is no point recounting the whole story, only the very laziest are unaware of it. All the details appear to have been established: he was not abducted, he is living pretty well, and is missing his mother.

While the Russian agency is still considering whether to punish Glukhov or not, the Georgian authorities have not missed their chance. They have given the fugitive a flat in Tbilisi (after godforsaken Sarapul in Udmurtia, believe you me, it is a gift from heaven - I.P), they have clothed him, provided him with shoes, fed him in American McDonald's which might have almost seemed like a super-restaurant to him. They have offered him political asylum. In other words, isn't he the model "victim of the Putin regime"?

It's just that Glukhov somehow doesn't look like a dissident fighting against the Russian regime out of his ideological convictions. Actually, perhaps only human rights activists would be outraged by the difficulties of army life. But that is one of the duties of their work. Everyone else would note pragmatically: in terms of a soldier's every-day existence, no state's army in the post-Soviet sphere has yet reached NATO standards. And it's not up to the Georgian generals to act as judges on this case. They can't quite grasp why Glukhov is being given such PR attention. It emerges that a Russian deserter is good, but a Georgian one is bad. What about an American or French one?

The Russian Defence Ministry does also not really get on with PR: it didn't manage to persuade anyone that the hapless Glukhov had been abducted. It is also unlikely that it will be able to create him into an anti-hero: he doesn't at all measure up to being a traitor. For example, the organization "Soldiers' mothers" confirm that during their stay in Akhalgori they saw first-hand that the soldiers were not even given the most basic conditions. So, although Glukhov's behaviour can perhaps not be justified, it can quite easily be explained.

Yes, the incomprehensible interviews with Glukhov himself give the impression that he left his unit's headquarters and gave himself over to the Georgian authorities for a crust of bread.

Just how was this dim-witted, not particularly educated and not particularly sharp village lad meant to know that in "hostile" Georgia he would be inundated with all this manna from heaven. He was just fleeing wherever it took him. How many such "fugitives" are there in Russia's great expanse. Salmaksov himself answered this: "There are always such people, both in times of war and peace. A soldier receives some letter from his girlfriend, and just ups and leaves." It is difficult to say whether Glukhov was more or less lucky that he fled without considering the political situation. Judging by his interviews, he is barely capable of taking anything into consideration. But there is a reason why the Russian proverb warns: crudeness is worse than thieving. And Glukhov, the poor devil, never suspected that he would end up under the wheels of both countries' propaganda machines.

And he probably doesn't realize even now that as soon as the PR-merchants have more important tasks, he will just be forgotten. And at the end of the day, only his mother is worried about his fate. Incidentally, she has asked the presidential administration and Udmurtian government for material support. Saying that the "situation regarding her son is requiring her to make additional expenses". So a continuation of the story is guaranteed...

But for the time being, Glukhov, and everything whirling around him, are essentially just echoes of the recent war. Neither of the sides wants to miss the slightest - even the most minute - opportunity to inflict a blow on the "enemy". So in this respect, I feel whole-heartedly sorry for the young lad who has got into this tremendous mess.

Irina Ptashkovskaya

 

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